Ada is an inquisitive, spunky three-year-old who loves blue popsicles, singing and playing on her playset with her loving parents, Savanna and Austin. To know Ada is to love her. Her bright personality will capture your heart and her humor will keep you on your toes. She may look and act like your typical toddler, but Ada has faced a lot more than most children her age: She is currently fighting a bilateral optic pathway glioma, a type of brain tumor that has caused her to lose much of her vision. Even so, Ada goes into each day living her life to the fullest!
“Since about nine months old, we noticed that Ada’s eyes were moving from side to side really fast, which is called nystagmus. We were reassured, and it was being monitored,” Savanna explains. “But when her right eye started to turn inward, I became alarmed and we were referred to VCU Pediatric Ophthalmology. I honestly thought we would get a prescription for glasses and she would have to wear an eye patch to correct the lazy eye, but we left that appointment in shock and terrified.”
An MRI later revealed an extensive bilateral optic pathway brain tumor, and their worst nightmare was confirmed. Many follow-ups, testing and specialty appointments followed, where they learned that treatment would involve 60 weeks of chemotherapy.
“In spite of the chaos of childhood cancer, our Clinic visits are filled with comfort and love,” Savanna shares. “The first time we were in Clinic was one of the hardest and scariest days of our lives, but almost immediately, the entire staff helped to calm our fears and make us feel at home. I will never forget that day. It was 4 days before Christmas 2022, and in walks Miss Katie, ASK’s Child Life Specialist, with Bat Girl and Christmas presents for Ada. Receiving this gesture within minutes of us being placed in our infusion room made all the difference in our world, and gently eased Ada into her first day of chemotherapy. Ada now runs into Clinic, so excited to see and play with everyone. The entire staff is so sweet and completely spoils our precious girl. Not only do they support Ada, but they support us as parents as well. They work so hard to make each child feel special and make the hard days seem easier.”
Savanna is a Labor and Delivery nurse at VCU CMH in South Hill and an adjunct nursing instructor for SVCC. Austin works in both Forestry and Farming. They have both continued to work full-time during Ada’s treatment, which has been a lot to navigate through while putting their daughter’s healthcare first. Driving from their home in Keysville, Virginia, Ada and her family travel more than an hour each way to get to treatment at the ASK Oncology/Hematology Clinic at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. The financial burden that comes with a childhood cancer diagnosis can be devastating, but thanks to ASK’s community of support, Ada’s family doesn’t have to face it alone.
“We are so grateful to ASK for the gas, gift, and grocery cards we have received to help mitigate the costs such as of traveling to the clinic and purchasing a safety vest for Ada to wear during chemotherapy." - ASK mom Savanna
"The snacks, popsicles and treasure box full of toys that ASK provides are always there to lift her spirits and keep her busy during long chemotherapy days. They continue to show us so much love and support in so many ways.” Savanna continues. Miss Katie also referred the family to Roc Solid Foundation, who donated and built Ada her very own playset last autumn. Since Ada’s diagnosis, she’s been able to attend ASK’s Night at The Diamond, the ASK 5k & Fun Walk, and ASK’s Kourageous Kids Party – experiences this family says they are so thankful for and will forever hold close to their hearts.
Ada’s doctors had a plan for her to complete her chemotherapy this month, February 2024. However, recent MRI findings have changed her course and extended her chemotherapy regimen for an additional 2 years. While they still have a long road ahead of them, Ada and her family know they will have a community of support by their side.
“God, our family, friends, community and all the teams at VCU CHoR have been with us every step of the way. And if anyone can fight brain cancer with a smile on her face, it’s our Ada,” Savanna reflects. “She has inspired so many people with her courage, strength, and resilience and I have no doubt that she will continue to move mountains until she finally rings that bell. ASK Childhood Cancer Foundation has greatly impacted our lives and given us so much joy to look forward to during some of our darkest days. We could never thank them enough for being one of the constants that has kept us grounded during Ada’s adventure.”